I joined Weight Watchers on 15 January of this year and three months later I’ve lost 1 st 6.5 lbs. It’s not a massive loss and I don’t feel all that skinnier. It’s a slow process not least because I genuinely like shit food and I’ve fallen off the wagon a couple of times. It’s not that shit food is especially convenient for me, it’s that I really do believe that cheese is its own food group, necessary with every meal. Before I joined Weight Watchers I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the real reasons why I’d decided it was time to drop a few pounds. I knew that I’d gained a lot of weight since I started college almost four years ago and I knew that some of my clothes were tighter than I wanted them to be and I knew there were a few photos of me that I found genuinely revolting. But I also knew that my value was not in what I looked like but who I was as a person. So joining Weight Watchers was problematic.
… what if I'm joining Weight Watchers for the wrong reasons? Part of it is that I want to feel comfortable in the clothes I already have (because the bigger I get the smaller the selection of nice clothes, particularly in shops like River Island where I have never seen a size 18 in anything). Maybe part of it is that I fear no one will ever want to be with me (unless desperate, lonely, etc) while I'm the size I am. Part of it is that I am significantly bigger than I was when I started college. I'm growing, yes, but I'm growing outwards, not upwards. And then I think of Youtuber, Leena, and her video on taking up space. And I don't want to be the kind of person who shrinks into non-existence because she feels guilty for taking up too much space, more than a normal, pretty, dainty, demure woman would. I don't want to be bullied in any metaphorical sense by myself or society into being a smaller version of myself. But at the same time, I want to be a smaller version of myself. Because I don't like me.
– past ramblings, 27 December 2013
I still have some of those concerns although I am finding that my body is an intuitive and instinctual thing and though lately I had fallen off the Weight Watchers wagon and was plying myself with hydrogenated fats on the daily, I was able to recognise when my body had had enough. It wasn’t guilt that drove me back to healthy eating, it was my body telling me that it had had quite enough processed meats for the time being, thanks. So I’m back on the wagon. And I’m eating lots of veggies. And I’m treating myself if my body and my mind deem it necessary. Everything in moderation. The above collection of photos is a small sample of what I’ve been eating over the past three months including Hangover Food and Healthy Dinners. I regularly post pictures of my meals on Instagram these days and I know that makes me a bit of a wanker but I also know that it helps me stay on track. It makes me feel proud of my healthy diet and my newly-acquired cooking skills.
I’ve finally begun to take a proactive role in loving and accepting myself. Losing weight/eating healthy is a small but important part of that journey: the way I look is not the most important aspect of who I am but taking care of my body is a vital exercise in showing love and compassion towards myself. However, I don’t expect miracles: in a TED talk on why dieting usually doesn’t work, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt claims that a drop in calories forces your body to go into starvation mode which has lasting effects on your body. These negative effects including gaining back the weight you lost plus a few extra pounds for good measure. However, Aamodt points out that eating healthier and introducing some good habits into your lifestyle is not without benefit. Aamodt cites a study which looked at the risk of death over a 14 year period in ‘normal’ weight people compared to overweight people. The study found that the risk of death was lowered with the introduction of one of the four healthy habits (balanced diet, exercise, not smoking and moderate alcohol intake) and when all four were introduced there wasn’t much in the difference between the risk of death of a ‘normal’ weight person and that of an obese person. In other words, obese people with healthy habits are about healthy as normal weight people with healthy habits and carrying a few extra pounds is not necessarily an indication of poor health. This, I think, serves as at least one argument against fat shaming.
On my weight loss journey so far, I have never felt starved. My particular path on Weight Watchers is based on a list of ‘filling and healthy’ foods of which I can eat unlimited quantities if I wish. This list of food includes all the fruit and veg a girl could want as well as meat, eggs and wholegrain. In other words, no food group is left out. Combining these foods in new and interesting ways is part of the fun of Weight Watchers and I’ve made some pretty tasty dishes over the past few months. In addition to the unlimited amount of healthy food, I also get a weekly allowance of 49 ProPoints which I can use for chocolate (2 squares = 2 ProPoints), olives (10 olives = 1 ProPoint), sugar (1 tsp = 1 ProPoint) or any of the other foods which don’t appear on the extensive list of ‘filling and healthy’ foods. Weight Watchers, like Sandra Aamodt, also encourages mindful eating: eating when hungry and stopping when full, taking cues from your body. Weight Watchers doesn’t feel like punishment and I get a real kick of eating healthy and seeing and feeling the positive effects on my body.
My journey is not over and I hope to introduce some movement into my life over the next few weeks. I’ll throw on my bright pink Nikes and work through the agony of what I suspect are shin splints and I’ll feel those super cool endorphins swimming through my brain. The main reason I avoid exercise at the moment is because I am so self-conscious – God forbid someone might see me moving my body – and that’s something that I’m working on. And it’s also a story for another day. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram for foodie pics and feel free to comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) about your own journey toward Good Health and Self-Love. :)